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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000225.txt from 1996/04

From: Jonathan Cohler <cohler@-----.NET>
Subj: Re: Performance Lattitude
Date: Tue, 9 Apr 1996 01:28:30 -0400

At 7:34 PM 4/8/96, Lisa Gartrell Yeo wrote:

>While I largely agree with your comments, I am going to play devil's
>advocate. In your recording of Moonflowers, Baby! you take signifiantly
>faster tempos than indicated. In the CD notes, you indicate that
>Kupferman (the composer) has given his approval for these choices. (They
>sound great, by the way, but I sure can't play that fast!)
>Is is always necessary to have the composer's permission to alter tempos
>(or other indications)? It is a little difficult when they are dead.
>Kupferman's acceptance of varying tempos from the score indicates that
>there is more than one appropriate, convincing way to perform this work.
>Can this priciple not be applied to other works by contemporary composers
>and from earlier periods? Just a thought.
>Lisa Gartrell Yeo

My feeling on this is that unless you must go with what the best evidence
suggests and not with what you "feel" is right.

In the case of living composers we have the luxury of communicating with
them directly, which is why I asked Meyer and played it for him before
recording the faster tempi. In this case, he thought that the faster tempi
were great. However, if he had not given his approval, I would not have
done them.

With dead composers, we can't just assume that they would like us to change
things in their music, unless we have some sort of concrete evidence such

* a note from the composer
* a note from one of the original performers or dedicatees of the work
* a recording of the composer playing or conducting the work
* a generally accepted performance practice of the time that is not
specifically contradicted by the composer

It is certainly true with some composers that they change their conception
of a piece over time, but it is also true that most composers are very
meticulous about their work. It is faulty logic to say that because some
composers change their minds over time it is then OK for us to go ahead and
assume what "they would have wanted."

At least by following the rule of concrete evidence, we are making a good
faith attempt to follow the composer's wishes.

Jonathan Cohler

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